It was a bright, sunny day when a man stepped onto the dusty platform at the small Wyoming town of Grady. He looked to be in his late forties, with an easy gait and a confident expression on his face. He was dressed in a gray suit, and carried a battered suitcase. He looked around curiously, and smiled as he noticed the curious faces watching him from windows and porches.
He felt a strong sense of belonging, a feeling that this was exactly where he should be. He stepped forward, and as he did, something extraordinary happened: he split into four parts, each one of him standing side by side, forming a string quartet.
The four men stood in a line, dressed identically, each playing his own instrument. One of them held a violin, one a viola, one a cello, and the last a double bass. All four instruments played together in perfect harmony, and the man who had arrived a few moments earlier smiled in amazement as the music filled the air.
The people of Grady stepped forward and gathered around the quartet, looking on in amazement. They had never seen anything like this before.
The four men played for a few moments, then stopped abruptly. A small flock of birds had swooped down from the sky and were perched on the man's head, and he beamed with delight as the birds chirped and sang in harmony with the quartet.
The people of Grady were entranced. They had never seen or heard anything like this before. The man looked around at them and smiled, and then he spoke:
“Friends,” he said, in a voice that was both gentle and dignified, “I am here for a reason. I am here to explore the wonders of the world. To discover new things, and to share them with you. Please, come with me, and together, let us explore the mysterious and the magical, the strange and the beautiful.”
The people of Grady, filled with excitement and anticipation, agreed. They followed the man and his string quartet, filled with dreams of adventure.
As they walked, the man began to tell stories of magical creatures and strange lands. He spoke of otherworldly creatures, of distant places and hidden secrets. The people of Grady listened with fascination.
The man told them of a wondrous land that was full of mystery and mystery. He told them of a forest full of birds and beasts, and of a village of elves who lived in the treetops. He spoke of ancient ruins, of lost cities, of strange creatures and places undiscovered. He described the beauty of the world, and filled their hearts with a sense of wonder.
After a long journey, the man and his quartet finally arrived at their destination. They had reached a mystical mountain, and the man declared that this was the end of their journey. He asked the people of Grady to look around, to explore and to marvel at the amazing things they saw.
The people of Grady did as the man asked, and they became lost in the beauty of the world they had discovered. Everywhere they looked, they saw something new, something strange, something beautiful. They saw birds that sang in different languages, and plants that glowed in the darkness of night. They saw creatures that seemed to come straight out of a dream, and places that seemed to exist only in their imaginations.
Above all, they saw the man. He stood at the center of the mountain, surrounded by his string quartet, the birds perched on his head. He looked around, and smiled, and they felt an overwhelming sense of calm.
The man had become part of this place, and the people of Grady were in awe. They began to whisper among themselves, speculating about the man and his quartet, about the birds and the creatures, about the beauty of the world they had discovered.
They saw the man as a symbol of exploration, of discovery, of true magic. He had truly become the embodiment of their dreams.
They lived in huts now, lovely round simple things that were hidden amongst the trees, and they lived off the land. They had no real leader, no real leader, which was perhaps one of the reasons they were able to survive so long. And it was a beautiful, peaceful life they led.
Once every year, they would gather in the center of the mountain, where the man and his quartet still stood. They would sing, and tell stories, and play instruments. They would share their dreams with one another, and marvel at them all.
The man always sat by a wide, clear pond that was fed by a glorious waterfall. He would sit down by the pond and look around at all the people, and he always smiled contentedly.
Some people would tell stories about the man, some about the birds and the animals, and some about the beautiful world they had all discovered. The stories would always be full of wonder and mystery and imagination, and a great sense of adventure.
The people would laugh, remembering their old lives of dust and toil, and the satisfaction they felt when they fulfilled their dreams. They would each tell a story, and they would each share their dreams with everyone.
The man sat at the pond, listening to the stories and sharing in the dreams. And whenever anyone asked about the mysterious circumstances of his arrival, the birds, the violin, the double bass, the man would smile and say, “It's a long story. A very long story.”
In a nearby hut, an old man sat in the corner, carving a piece of wood. He was very old, his hands twisted and gnarled, but he was very skilled. His hands moved swiftly, and the sounds of the birds echoed inside his mind.
The birds had been a source of great inspiration for him. They were like music, like music, and he was slowly learning to play their song. And the melody it produced was beautiful, and it made him smile whenever he heard it.
He carved a tiny violin, with strings as fine as silk and as strong as steel. He carved its body and its neck, and he carved its bow and its tuning pegs. He carved a barrel for the violin, and he carved its pegs. He carved its tailpiece, and he carved its chin rest.
And when he was done, he smiled to himself, thinking of the wonder and the magic of it all. He said to himself, “It's a long story, a very long story,” and then he laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
That night, just at the darkest hour, there came riding out of the sky on a smoldering horse-fox, a beautiful girl with skin like fire and hair like snow. She was wrapped in a cloak made of feathers, and she gave a mournful cry as her eyes fell on the man.
“My poor, poor sisters,” she cried, “how they must feel!”
And then she turned to the man and pleaded with him, “I beseech you, my Lord, I beseech you, but only you, can help us! And if you do, then we shall be free. If only you could help us, my sisters would be free.”
And the man, for the first time, looked confused. “But I do not know your sisters,” he said, “and I do not know what you mean.”
And the girl looked at him, and she looked at the birds on his head, and she said, “You must have forgotten.”
And then she turned sadly away from the man, and she flew back into the darkness of the night.
The man sat by the pond, and he stared into the water. He stared at his reflection in the water, and he thought of the girl, and her sisters, and her appeal.
He thought of all the people, and the stories they had told. He thought of all the dreams they had shared.
He saw the image of the girl in the water, and he knew that he had been there before, that he had seen her before, but he could not remember when, or where, or how.
He began to play with the birds. He played, and his music echoed into the distance, and the birds joined in the song. And the music was like a dream, and the birds were like music.
The man played for a long time, until the birds and the animals and the people of Grady had all fallen asleep. The music flowed out into the world, filling the air with melody, and peace, and wonder, and the man slept by the pond.
Then, at the darkest hour, there came riding out of the sky on a smoldering horse-fox, a beautiful girl with skin like fire and hair like snow. She was wrapped in a cloak made of feathers, and she gave a mournful cry as her eyes fell on the man.
“My poor, poor sisters,” she cried, “how they must feel!”
And then she turned to the man, and she said, “Were you not you were a boy, my lord?”
And the man said, “Yes, I was once a boy.”
And the girl said, “Could you not still be a boy?”
And the man looked at the birds on his head, and he thought of the dream they had shared. He thought of the people of Grady, and their stories. He thought of their dreams, and he thought of his own dreams, and he thought of the girl, and of her sisters.
And then he thought of the story the old man had told, and he remembered the girl, and her sisters, and the music, and the words, and the wonder and the magic of it all.
And with that, he raised his violin to his shoulder, and he played. The melody echoed through the mountains and the valleys, through the forests and the fields, and the birds joined in the song.
And the music was like a dream, and the birds were like music.